Updated March 2019
Nowhere is more rich in history than Rome, which means lots of places to visit. It can feel so overwhelming planning a visit to Rome especially over 3 days.
However, 3 days does allow you to visit the major attractions in Rome and leisurely wander at your own pace too!
I am the proud owner of a degree in Ancient History, and having visited Rome three times in the past ten years I feel confident that my 3 day itinerary works very well.
It’s been personally tried and tested with two different groups of people and we managed to do all of the following sites/areas with time to spare to consume a lot of gelato and vino!
Andiamo a Roma (Let's go to Rome!)
Day 1 - Rome Itinerary
I always hit it BIG on my first day in Rome. I want my travel colleagues to be in awe of what Rome has to offer so today, it’s ancient historical site galore. Numero Uno is of course the Colosseum.
If you take one thing from this guide please take this; make sure you either book tickets beforehand or get to attractions early. It’s ridiculously busy in Rome most of the year so this will save you time and energy.
Arrive at the Colosseum as soon as it opens, the tickets are reasonably priced at €14 per person (online) and are valid for two days (entry only once) so if it is busy when you get there you can fit it in the following day. Thankfully these tickets also include entry into the Roman Forum, two for the price of one, something I love. Print these tickets out beforehand as they become skip the queue tickets meaning you can walk straight in and bypass the masses smugly.
Opposite the Colosseum is the Roman Forum and Palatine Hill. As advised, getting on a guided tour will make this experience so much more exciting, unless you are a history nerd like me and knows the difference between the temple of vestal virgins to that of Jupiter.
Combining the Colosseum and Roman Forum usually takes 3 - 3.5 hours. You then have time after the tour to explore at your leisure.
It will be around midday now so take a walk up the Via Dei Fori Imperiali to the Piazza Venezia. Walk to the top of the Vittorio Emanuele II Monument for a great view of Rome. It’s a brilliant spot for looking at the Roman Forum and the Colosseum.
At this point you can either head into the Capitoline Museum or Trajan’s Markets. Purely depends on what you like to do.
Capitoline Museum is home to Rome's most precious artefacts, including remnants of the first temple of Jupiter and the iconic Romulus and Remus statue. It is a €15 admission and allow yourself 2 hours at least.
Trajan’s Markets are opposite the Vittorio Emanuele II Monument. My dad and I visited these and thoroughly enjoyed it. It’s not your typical archaeological site as it’s super interactive. They have installed technology to bring the experience to life. Just want to say thank you to Trajan at this point as this is the first covered shopping mall in history! He termed the word Mall in 110 AD, what a guy. Admission is 9,50€ per adult but if you have bagged yourself a Roma Card it’s free, ideal.
Time for a leisurely walk to Trastevere.
Head around the side of Vittorio Emanuele Monument and you’ll find a piece of everyday Ancient Rome that goes unnoticed. Ancient Roman Tenant blocks (insula) still standing at the foot of the Capitoline Hill. They are an impressive 5 storeys tall and it shows how romans would live there lives on the daily. Something I learnt as part of my module on Ancient Rome Life was how dangerous it was to be walking near tenant blocks. Death by chamberpot was a common death for a lot of Romans. What a way to go!
Continue your stroll down Via del Teatro di Marcello, you’ll pass the Theatre of Marcello on your right. You can continue on down and visit the Mouth of Truth, be warned there is usually a long queue of tourists. We visited in the evening, it is closed but there are just bars so you can see it. I didn’t fancy putting my hand in there, you know, because of the germs.
Time to head over to my favourite area of Rome, the wonderful neighbourhood of Trastevere. First, walk over Tiber Island, if you are visiting June-August check out Lungo Il Tevere Roma a Food, Market and Craft Stalls festival that lines the banks of the River; it's buzzing all night. They often have open air cinema showing on Tiber Island so be sure to check the schedule of events. There are worse evenings than having a cocktail in a swanky bar next to the Tiber River.
Visit the Santa Maria piazza then take a seat in one of the bars on the square with a Apertivó in hand and watch the world go by.
I would advise you grab a bite to eat at Da Enzo or La Tavernaccia. If you want something a little bit different check out Federica & Barbara of BB Kitchen . You can dine at their house with other travellers and have an authentic Roman Dinner.
Haven't got long? Download your free copy of my Must See Guide to Rome now, print it off and take it with you!
Day 2 - Rome Itinerary
It's time to hit the Vatican and it's museums. Make sure you buy your tour and tickets online before you go, the queues here are horrendous, the worst I’ve ever seen in fact. It really is that bad.
General Admission is €16, however, there are small group tours (16 people max) €33 each - both include Vatican Museums, Sistine Chapel and St Paul's Basilica.
We did find a local company on the street the day before our visit and booked with them. It cost around €40 per person but it was such an informative tour. So it is possible to take a chance and book something when you are there if it’s a last minute decision.
Spend 3 hours taking in the Museum. You can send a postcard home from the Vatican post office which always goes down a treat back home.
Walk up from the Vatican to the Castel Sant'Angelo, Hadrian's Mausoleum. It costs €10.50 to enter here. It's an impressive monument and once you have ascended the 400ft spiral ramp you get some amazing views of the Vatican and a wonderful picture of Rome.
It's worth noting that the Bridge of Angels, opposite the Castel Sant'Angelo (you cannot miss it), looks stunning at night, so if you are in the area, make sure you go and take a picture.
As I love history, I always direct people to the Ara Pacis, Augustus' mausoleum. The craftsmanship of this tomb is sensational and considering he was the greatest Emperor, in my humble opinion, it's worth checking it out. Admission costs €10.50 and it's not very big so you will only need 20 minutes at best.
Continue up to Piazza Del Popolo. Walk south to the main shopping area of Rome, stores are open late until 8pm so now is a great time to get into Nike, H & M etc. Enjoy the evening walking around this area. Looking for somewhere to eat, Il Gabriello was stunning, hidden downstairs in a vaulted room, it had romance and delicious fresh pasta.
Day 3 - Rome Itinerary
Start the morning at Campo De Fiori to get involved in the market. I brought some pasta and sauces to take home with me as well as fresh fruit to eat.
Head on over to Piazza Navona and take in this once impressive Roman stadium! It has to be one of the prettiest squares in the world and home to three of the most beautiful fountains. If you have a little bit of extra cash, have a morning coffee or a Bellini, hey I won’t judge, and soak up the atmosphere. You’ll pay through the nose but hey, you’re in Rome, in Piazza Navona. Who cares.
It’s only a short walk to the Pantheon, this is one of my favourite buildings, over two thousand years old and it still retains the title of the world's biggest unsupported dome. WOW indeed. It does baffles my brain that this was created in 125AD.
Now it's time to brave the crowds and see the Trevi Fountain! To be fair, it is worth the arging and barging to see this incredible piece of architecture.
With your Gelato in hand walk up the Spanish Steps, head left until you reach the Borghese Gardens and the area named Pincio. Marvel at the Roman skyline, take some photos, wander around the beautiful gardens or visit the Borghese Galleries
So there you have it 3 days in Rome and you've covered all the major sites! You can spend the rest of your time as you like or maybe tick of some other sites like Trajan's Markets, Baths of Caracalla, or the Circus Maximus.
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